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Kwart Hist Nauki Tech. 2012;57(1):89-129.

[Early career of Michael Sendivogius].

[Article in Polish]

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Akademia Wychowania Fizycznego w Poznaniu.


One of the most influential alchemical authors of the early modern period was Michael Sendivogius whose early life is shrouded in mystery. He may be labelled the most famous Polish scientific writer between Copernicus and Marie Skłodowska-Curie, but because of the difficulties involved in researching the biography of any alchemist, there has been relatively little interest in him among Polish historians. The early work of Roman Bugaj (author of the still fundamental monograph) and Włodzimierz Hubicki (who made his research available to the international community) has been continued only by the English-born Zbigniew Szydło and the author of this article. The roots of many legends about Sendivogius were three mid-17th century short biographies, none of which is trustworthy, so it is crucial to verify the received myth and the version constructed in the 1960's and 1970's with primary sources and evidence from the recent "new historiography of alchemy". The present article examines them in the light of newly discovered sources and reinterpretation of the old ones. The genealogy of the Sedzimir family is discussed at length to show that Sendivogius most probably was not its member but only a pretender in order to assume (or prove) the status of a nobleman. Several possible hypotheses about his origins are presented. He is known to have studied at three universities (Leipzig, Vienna and Altdorf) but authors of early panegyrics dedicated to Sendivogius list more universities which he may have attended. The most interesting is that of Cambridge, listed as the first one, because practically no Poles or Czechs went there at the time. Finally, his marriage to Veronica Stiebar, a wealthy widow of a Franconian knightly family, and her interesting family relationships (links to Erasmus, Camerarius, Paracelsus and the original Doctor Faustus) are discussed. The period covered is that before Sendivogius moved to Prague in about 1597, having already been a courtier of Rudolf II since early 1594.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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